What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Prairie Smoke

Prairie Smoke

Blooming

Penn Sedge
Bloodroot
Hepatica
Spring Beauty
False Rue Anemone
Cut Leaved Toothwort
Dutchman’s Breeches
Marsh Marigold
White Trout Lily
Blue Violet
Spring Cress
Wild Ginger
Wood Anemone
Prairie Smoke
Swamp Buttercup
Prairie Buttercup
Large Flowered Trillium
Jack in the Pulpit
Blue Cohosh
Downy Yellow Violet
Kidney Leaved Buttercup
Wood Betony
Hoary Puccoon
Wild Blue Phlox
Miterwort
Bellwort

Wild Columbine

Wild Columbine

In Bud

Nodding Trillium
Wild Lily of the Valley
Golden Alexander
Wild Columbine
False Solomon’s Seal

Golden Alexander

Sprouting/Leaves Present

Cow Parsnip
Bedstraws
Goldenseal
Blue Giant Hyssop

Bug o’the Week – Festive Tiger Beetle

Howdy, BugFans,

The BugLady has been enjoying the company of these lovely beetles on her walks over the prairie at Riveredge recently (no, despite the recent rash of Riveredge-based episodes, she does not own stock in Riveredge or even get free maple syrup – it’s just a very cool place to walk – and witness a little beetle hanky-panky).

The beetles live along a sandy trail, and as you walk toward them, they fly up in front of you for a few feet, often landing at the path’s edge where sparse grass begins.  At just under a half-inch long, they’re not huge – the BugLady was showing them to someone one day, and they had thought the beetles were flies.

Tiger beetles used to be considered a separate family, but now they’re classified as the subfamily Cicindelinae in the ground beetle family Carabidae, a huge family with about 34,000 species worldwide, some 2,500 of them in North America.  According to bugguide.net, there are 117 species of tiger beetles north of the Rio Grande (and almost as many subspecies – more about that in a sec).  The BugLady has said it before – someone is sure having fun naming these beetles.  Festive tiger beetles (Cicindela scutellaris) are in the tribe Cicindelini (Flashy tiger beetles) and in the genus Cicindela (Temperate tiger beetles).

They are famous for their boldness – after a short flight, tiger beetles often land and turn to face their stalker https://bugguide.net/node/view/894153/bgimage – and for their speed (there’s a reason why many tiger beetle pictures are of the beetle’s rear).  They can hit 5 mph on all sixes; Jim McCormac, in his excellent Ohio Birds and Diversity blog says “they move in impossibly quick bursts, as if propelled by small explosives.” http://jimmccormac.blogspot.com/2009/04/tiger-beetles.html.

Festive tiger beetles are considered one of the most widely-distributed species of tiger beetles, present in the US east of the Rockies (except, oddly, in the Appalachians) and across southern Canada from Alberta to Quebec.  They’re found in sandy, relatively unshaded habitats – paths, edges, and swales – away from water.

Tiger beetles have been discussed in these pages before (https://uwm.edu/field-station/tiger-beetles-revisited/), and a festive tiger beetle’s biography follows the general tiger beetle template.  Briefly, it’s a two-year life cycle (but it’s not synchronized, so various stages are present each year).  According to the University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web account of Festive tiger beetles, “Females lay about 50 eggs in dry sand or sandy soils. Each egg is deposited into its own hole, about 5 to 10 mm deep. Larvae develop to the 3rd instar stage in their first summer and hibernate over the winter. In the following spring they become active and begin feeding, then pupate in June and July. They emerge as adults in August, often after a soaking rain. Adults overwinter in a burrow and are sexually mature when they emerge the next spring.”  The BugLady was surprised to see this beetle in May – she’s accustomed to chasing them in September – but she learned that they’re typically seen in late spring and then again at the end of summer.

The well-camouflaged larva lurks at the mouth of a vertical tunnel of its own creation https://bugguide.net/node/view/1480242/bgimage (the female’s choice of a soil type for her eggs is critical), waiting for small, unwary pedestrians to pass by.  Having nabbed some prey, they retire with it to the bottom of their lair.  Adults are carnivores, too, chasing ants and other invertebrates.  Adults are eaten by spiders, robber flies, and a few birds and mammals, and larvae by wasps, ants, and some beetles.

Festive tiger beetle are diurnal, and ground temperatures in their habitat can swing between extremes, but the beetles have strategies for that.  Overheated beetles may shelter under vegetation or may tunnel shallowly into the sand, and they may also stay underground at night, when the sand’s surface cools.  They aestivate (from the Latin for “summer”), disappearing during the hottest months.  Like some other insects, they bask in the sun to increase their internal temperature when they’re chilly, and they stand “on tiptoe” to get away from the heat https://bugguide.net/node/view/1062656/bgimage when they’re hot.

According to Eric Eaton at bugeric.blogspot.com, “The metallic nature of tiger beetles is structural, rather than the result of pigmentation. Layers in the exoskeleton reflect various wavelengths of light.”  Even though brightly-colored, the patterns on the adults elytra break up their body shape visually and can make them hard to spot.

Not only are Festive tiger beetles considered one of the most widely-distributed species of tiger beetles, they are also among the most variable species of tiger beetles, and that’s because entomologists have described a bunch of subspecies.

What’s a subspecies?  Within a species’ range, especially if it covers a wide geographic area, populations may take on a unique appearance, lined up in a continuum across their range.  They’re the same species genetically– they could still interbreed more-or-less successfully (for now) if they met up with each other, though they might not recognize each other.  They may be on the way to becoming distinct species.  In appearance, (phenotype) they’re different, due to environmental factors – different enough that scientists give them an extra name that indicates their separateness.  Our Upper Midwestern Festive beetle is Cicindela scuttelaris lecontei, aka C. s. lecontei.

The folks at the Animal Diversity Web list these subspecies and ranges (there may be a mix of subspecies in an area), and the BugLady added pictures from bugguide.net.  Remember – at present, this is a single species.  .

  1. s. scutellaris(Festive tiger beetle). West of the Missouri River.  https://bugguide.net/node/view/1722649/bgimage, and https://bugguide.net/node/view/1479472/bgimage;

  1. s. flavoviridis,(Chartreuse tiger beetle).  Central northern Texas.  https://bugguide.net/node/view/1504640/bgpage;

  1. s. lecontei(Leconte’s tiger beetle)– that’s us!  Throughout the northeast and Midwestern states.  https://bugguide.net/node/view/1635202/bgimage, and https://bugguide.net/node/view/747313/bgimage;

  1. s. rugata(Rugate tiger beetle). From eastern Texas to western Arkansas.  https://bugguide.net/node/view/623060/bgimage;

  1. s. rugifrons(Festive tiger beetle). Along the Atlantic seaboard from Massachusetts to the Carolinas. https://bugguide.net/node/view/1059359/bgimage, and https://bugguide.net/node/view/659944/bgimage;

  1. s. unicolor(Unicolored tiger beetle).  Southeastern Coastal Plain and scrubinto Missouri and Tennessee.  https://bugguide.net/node/view/569015/bgimage and https://bugguide.net/node/view/894148/bgimage;

And C. s. yampae (Yampa tiger beetle).  Found only in northwestern Colorado.  https://bugguide.net/node/view/1631754/bgimage.

If you want more than the Cliff’s Notes version, see https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Cicindela_scutellaris/

Can’t get enough of these great beetles?  Here are a few picture collections: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/readers-wildlife-photos-207/, and

http://bugeric.blogspot.com/2015/04/springtime-tiger-beetles.html, and http://www.wvdnr.org/publications/PDFFiles/tigerbeetlebrochure.pdf, and our home town tiger beetles https://wisconsinbutterflies.org/tigerbeetle/family/35-tiger-beetles.

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Bug o’the Week – Thin-legged Wolf Spider

Howdy, BugFans,

 

The BugLady likes spiders, and she can even hail a number of species by name when she meets them, but she’s never applied herself to their taxonomy, and she jokes that maybe she shouldn’t be identifying them all by herself (to which BugFan Mike graciously replied that maybe nobody should be).

Sources agree that she’s allowed to be confused by wolf spiders (family Lycosidae) vs nursery web spiders (family Pisauridae https://bugguide.net/node/view/1603298/bgimage).  Both can be mottled brown with long, striped legs, and neither spins a trap web.  In his bugeric blogspot, Eric Eaton says that wolf spiders are most likely to be seen on the ground and nursery-web spiders on vertical surfaces, but the BugLady usually sees the spectacular Dolomedes fishing spider on boardwalks and dock railings https://uwm.edu/field-station/dark-fishing-spider/.  If you get up close and personal, you’ll see that the eyes in the two families are arranged differently (scroll down to the diagrams at https://bugguide.net/node/view/1967 and https://bugguide.net/node/view/1963).  Wolf spiders are famous for having tissue in their eyes that reflects light at night https://www.backyardnature.net/yucatan/spideyes.htm and https://www.inhs.illinois.edu/outreach/spotlight/na/shining-spide/.

 

If she is lucky enough to see a female that’s carrying an egg sac, then she knows what she’s looking at!  Nursery web spiders carry their egg sacs in front, with their jaws, and wolf spiders carry them to the rear, attached to the spinnerets, often raising their abdomen as they walk, to avoid damaging the sac.

The BugLady was curious about how an egg sac is made and was thrilled to find this description in the University of Michigan’s excellent BioKids series: “After mating in May and June, female thin-legged wolf spiders begin constructing an egg sac. They first spin a circular disc of web from their spinnerets on the ground. They make it larger and lay their eggs in the center. They spin a covering disc on top of the eggs, connecting it with the bottom disc, to form a sac and use their mouthparts, called chelicerae, to detach the sac from its surroundings. Fresh threads are laid over it and females carry it under their abdomen by their spinnerets into the summer. The average number of eggs per sac is 48, though this number is highly affected by the size and health of the female parent.”  http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Pardosa_mackenziana/

 

The story of egg sac transport has a different ending in each family, too.  Nursery web spiders install their egg sac in a shelter that they spin in vegetation, and they hang around outside it to guard the eggs until they hatch and the spiderlings disperse.  Wolf spiders lug the egg sac around until it hatches, whereupon the tiny spiders climb up onto Mom’s abdomen (stacked several layers deep, if she was prolific) and she carries them for a week or two longer (a Mother’s Day connection).

 

Anyway, the BugLady was enjoying the boardwalk at the ephemeral pond in late summer when a small, leggy spider emerged from between the boards with an egg sac on its rear, and on subsequent visits she photographed the species again.  BugFan Mike confirmed her guess that they were Thin-legged wolf spiders (TLWS) in the genus Pardosa (thanks, Mike), but to ID them to species, you need to look at their “naughty-bits.”  There are more than 100 Pardosa species from the Rio Grande through Canada (500 worldwide) and the genus contains a number of “species groups” – groups of very similar-looking (to us), closely-related, yet distinct (to each other) species.  Eaton says that “Pardosa has long spines that are almost perpendicular to the axis of the leg itself.  The hind pair of legs is long, and it is often easier to see the spines on that rear pair.”  They’re found around water and in fields, leaf litter, and woods, and some are habitat generalists, which is unusual in spiders.

 

TLWSs have good eyesight that allows them to see movement, but they are “sit-and-wait” predators of small, ground-dwelling invertebrates rather than an active stalkers.  Apparently they use vibrations as well as visual cues while hunting, and they also have sensory hairs on their legs that help them find prey and that detect chemicals and odors, including pheromones left by females.

 

Lorus and Marjory Millne, in the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders, tell us that Pardosa “hunts over a limited territory and often basks in the sunkeeping warm and ready for a quick pursuit of potential prey” (most wolf spiders are nocturnal).

 

Based on the biographies that she found of a few TLWS species (the BugLady is assuming that there is some similarity in lifestyle across the genus) courtship dances occur on sunny days (here’s a cool video of a Russian male TLWS approaching a female with love on his mind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Inl3KoiZxJc).  Males will face off against each other and even fight over a female.

 

She produces eggs pretty quickly after mating – usually she makes only one egg sac, but she may eventually make another one.  Her spiderlings will hatch and feed, and will overwinter half-grown, in suspended animation, restarting in the spring.  If she makes a second egg sac, it will have fewer eggs, but each egg will include more food so that the second brood is not disadvantaged by its later start in life.

 

She carries the sac until the eggs are mature and then helps her young exit by tearing the sac open with her jaws.  When they leave their perch on her abdomen, the tiny spiders often spread to new territories by ballooning (this episode was written in fall, but spider flight may take place any time https://uwm.edu/field-station/spider-flight/).

People like to assign plusses or minuses to animals, and the BugLady often finds these assessments in the course of her research (as one of the BugLady’s English lit teachers once said, “Man is the measure of all things”).  The BugLady tries not to “rate” bugs, but she might make an exception in the case of the murder hornet https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/invasion-murder-hornets-180974809/.  Yes, TLWSs are beneficial because some of their prey consists of “pest” insects (so judge-y), but to a TLWS, a meal is a meal is a meal, so they also partake of “good” insects, too.  As one author implied – they come so close to getting the Stamp of Approval.  Get over it.

 

 

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

May 15 Riveredge Covid-19 Spring Update

Friday, May 15 2020

 

Dear Community,

Spring is feeling more like summer right now, and the beauty of Riveredge is really starting to grow. If you haven’t been out to Riveredge recently, now is the perfect time to come! Our little family has created a new habit of hiking most days together. Sometimes it’s a short hike near our home, and other days we venture farther away. Our pup loves to hike with us too, so we’ve found great use in the list of dog appropriate trails put together by Riveredge. We also cherish our time on the Riveredge trails (pup free) and have used those journeys to help our dog get reaccustomed to the days when we won’t all be home 24/7.

Visitor’s Center to Reopen Tuesday, May 26

I’m excited to announce that plans are underway to reopen the Visitor Center on Tuesday, May 26. We are currently finalizing our “Reopening Plan for Riveredge,” working to acquire all needed supplies, and training our staff on the details of the plan. Rest assured that we are following recommendations by county, state, and national health authorities in relation to public spaces, group programming, and outdoor recreation. We are confident that our plans will greatly reduce risk due to virus transmission at Riveredge and allow all of us to return to full, yet modified, operations. To allow full transparency, we will place a list of our modifications and precautions on our website in the coming week.

 

In-Person Programming to Resume

We are excited to announce that small group nature programs will resume after May 26! We are confident that our plans for providing fun, educational programs at Riveredge not only follow, but exceed, recommendations set forth by the health authorities. A brand new, social distancing friendly Frog Fest is returning on Sunday, June 7! Summer programming will soon be listed on our online calendar. Please check it frequently as more and more programs will be listed as modifications for those programs are finalized.

Going forward, for the foreseeable future, participants must pre-register for ALL programs, including free programs and guided hikes. No day-of registrations will be allowed.

When you do come to a program, please read the details carefully. Some programs (like Frog Fest) also direct you to a sign-up genius to claim an arrival time for your family/group. All programs will have a designated arrival location at Riveredge. The utilization of our dispersed “home bases” allows excellent social distancing and the elimination of congregating groups.  Along with our 379 acres and 10 miles of trails, we will be using our River Outpost, Sugarbush House, Visitor’s Center, and Yurt Village for programming home bases this year. A new Farm upgrade will be completed this fall, adding yet another dispersed learning home base to our list.

 

SUMMER CAMP!

I’m so very happy to announce that our ever popular “Nature Journeys” summer day camp program will return for the summer of 2020! After what seems like months of ambiguity and anxiety, we can now announce that our summer camp program has been modified to not only meet, but exceed, the recommendations by local and national health agencies. We have also closely followed the recommendations of the American Camping Association to inform this decision. Lots of details will be sent to currently registered camp families early next week. We do still have some spots available for summer camp 2020, and we are now accepting additional registrations on our summer camp page.

For those families who have a young person signed up for the uber popular Boundary Waters backcountry trip – a final determination has not yet been made about the status of this trip. We are optimistic, but we do have some additional facts and options to determine. You will be contacted next week regarding options and details for this incredible summer opportunity for your youth.

 

Virtual Programming

We also know that, for a variety of reasons, some individuals and families are not yet comfortable returning to in-person activities.  We plan to continue to provide our fun, and educational, Riveredge Virtual Naturalist videos throughout the summer as well as our popular Tea & Topics with Riveredge Zoom programs through June. We are looking into ways to provide a virtual summer camp option in August.  We know everyone’s situation is different.  At Riveredge, everyone is welcome, and we are enthusiastic about providing experiences that connect all of us with the natural world.

 

With Great Gratitude

Thank you to all of you for your gracious understanding, patience, and support over this time of great uncertainty. We have been humbled by the emails of support, stories of joy brought to you by the Riveredge land, and smiling faces hiking the trails. This is yet another time when the Riveredge Family shines brightly. We are all so excited to return and see each other in person (we appreciate Zoom, but, WOW, we miss seeing all of  you)!

We know that things will not be the same as they once were. Our utmost concern is the health and safety of YOU, all of our learners and visitors, our volunteers, and our staff. We’ll take precautions at Riveredge for months to come to minimize risk of virus transmission. We also know that time in nature is healing for our minds and bodies. We know that our youngest Riveredge Family members need each other and a summer of catching frogs.  And, we know that the Riveredge Family will look out for each other and work together to keep us all healthy.

Now, get on outside and enjoy the summer-like weather that has FINALLY arrived!

Keep Smiling!

 

Jessica Jens

Riveredge Executive Director
Riverdge Kid Since 2013

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

In Bloom

Trout Lily

Trout Lily is easily identified by the speckled leaves.

Pasque Flower
Penn Sedge
Bloodroot
Hepatica
Spring Beauty
False Rue Anemone
Cut Leaved  Toothwort
Dutchman’s Breeches
Marsh Marigold
Leatherwood
White Trout Lily
Blue Violet
Spring Cress
Wild Ginger
Wood Anemone
Prairie Smoke
Swamp Buttercup
Prairie Buttercup
Large Flowered Trillium

In Bud

Prairie Shooting Star

Prairie Shooting Star

Bastard  Toadflax
Blue Cohosh
Wood Betony
Draba
Kidney Leaved Buttercup
Wild Blue Phlox
Dwarf Ginseng
Jacob’s Ladder
Heart Leaved  Golden Alexander
Shooting Star

Sprouting/Leaves Present

Early Meadow Rue
Bellwort
False Solomon’s Seal

Bug o’the Week – Midland Clubtail Dragonfly

Howdy, BugFans,

The BugLady has been checking the Wisconsin Odonata Survey website religiously (http://wiatri.net/inventory/odonata/) to see if the dragonfly season has commenced, and she is pleased to announce that it has!  Keep the site in mind on your spring and summer ramblings and share your sightings.  Observers started reporting Common Green Darners on April 26 (https://uwm.edu/field-station/common-green-darner-rest-story-family-aeshnidae/), and the first Variegated Meadowhawk was logged on April 30 (https://uwm.edu/field-station/variegated-meadowhawk/).  The BugLady is more than ready.

As their name suggests, clubtails (family Gomphidae) have clubbed tails (but sometimes just barely).  The club is formed by three segments at the end of the abdomen that are flared to various degrees – males have larger clubs, club size varies by species, and in some species, clubs are pretty dramatic https://bugguide.net/node/view/184077/bgimage, and https://bugguide.net/node/view/186075/bgimage.

As a group, clubtails are medium-sized (1 ¾” to 2 ½” long) with green, blue or gray eyes that do not touch on the top of the head https://bugguide.net/node/view/403422/bgimage, and with clear, unpatterned wings and a striped body (the Wisconsin Odonata survey tells us that “Clubtail species are very similar to each other in some aspects, careful inspection is needed to identify them.”).  They tend to perch on the ground and on rocks and lily pads.

The BugLady has been kind of easing into the Clubtails, starting with the local, fairly club-less Dusky, Ashy, and Lancet Clubtails and moving on to the Lilypad, Midland, and Arrow Clubtails.  Seeing the more exotic members of the group will require some road trips.

Depending on how the spring progresses, she’ll have to wait about a month to see a Midland Clubtail (Gomphurus fraternus) (formerly in genus Gomphus); she usually stalks them as they bask on trails near the river in early June.  Their range is “V-shaped,” stretching from Maine to Tennessee to Manitoba, centered around the Great Lakes https://explorer.natureserve.org/Taxon/ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.114745/Gomphurus_fraternus.

Midland Clubtails are big, beautiful, sturdy dragonflies. For tips on identification, see: http://www.dragonfliesnva.com/My%20Documents/KevinPDF/pdf/identify/species/MidlandClubtail-FINAL.pdf.

They’re are powerful flyers and avid hunters that can grab other dragonflies out of the air.  In his 1901 report Aquatic Insects in the Adirondacks, J. G. Needham wrote “This vigorous species seems to prefer the larger bodies of water.  The imago [adult] is a very strong flyer.  It skirts the edges of streams with dashing sweeps which seem to proclaim it master of the situation.  I have several times seen it feeding on other dragon flies as large as Mesothemis simplicicollis [now Erythemis simplicicollis, the Eastern Pondhawk].”  There’s a picture in Kurt Mead’s Dragonflies of the North Woods of an immature female Midland Clubtail that nabbed an immature male, and Mead says that they’re agile enough to capture butterflies, too.

For their eggs Midland Clubtails prefer moving water – sunny, well-oxygenated rivers and large streams with some vegetation, a moderate-to-fast current, and a fine sand, mud, or clay bottom, but they’re also found at the edges of large lakes with waves.  The female has no ovipositor and can’t insert her eggs in vegetation, so she uses waves or water currents to wash them from the tip of her abdomen, sometimes partially submerging in order to accomplish this.  Many Gomphids enclose their eggs in a gelatinous wrap that glues them to rocks and logs.

Their chunky naiads https://programs.iowadnr.gov/bionet/Inverts/Taxa/813 are burrowers.  Needham wrote of the genus “The nymphs form the most important part of the bottom fauna in all clear waters.  They are active burrowers, taking their prey either on or beneath the surface of the bottom silt.  They are very rapacious, and will eat almost any living animal small enough to be held by their powerful, grasping labia.  Many species spend two or three years in the aquatic, naiad/nymph stage.

Midland Clubtails are, overall, yellower in the north part of their range, and darker at the southern edge of their range.  In 1958, the species was divided into two subspecies, Gomphurus fraternus fraternus and G. f. manitobanus, separated by differences in size and color and, to some extent, geography.  Overall, G. f. manitobanus is smaller and paler, with more extensive yellow markings http://www.naturenorth.com/dragonfly/list/Gomphus_fraternus.html, and its range has been thought to be limited to north-central Canada.  But, according to Gary Paulson in Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West “Populations on the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in southern Manitoba named as separate subspecies of G. f. manitobanus, smaller and paler than elsewhere, with yellow stripe down tibiae and prominent dorsal yellow spots on S9-10.  These attributes may occur elsewhere on the Great Plains. “

The larger and darker Gomphurus fraternus fraternus has a generally more southern and eastern range.  The two overlap in eastern Manitoba.

The BugLady found an interesting paper that documented a period of oxygen depletion and pollution in Lake Erie during warm weather in the mid-1950’s.  This led to a die-off of burrowing mayflies (whose naiads are also aquatic), and within five years, the once-abundant Midland Clubtails that preyed on them were gone.  John Muir nailed it – “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

Enjoy this spectacular collection of pictures: https://www.naturemanitoba.ca/news-articles/focus-dragonfly.

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Nesting Birds Lay New “Riveredge Kids” Across the 379 Acres of Riveredge

Have you noticed the robin nesting on the Riveredge sign (pictured above)?

Mother Nature seems to be blissfully unaware of Covid-19. Robins and Bluebirds have built their nests and laid their eggs right on schedule. Both species are in the thrush family but have different nesting strategies.

Pictures taken of Bluebird eggs inside a Bluebird nest box earlier this week.

 

Bluebirds are cavity nesters (live in a box or hole in a tree).

 

Robins tend to tuck nests somewhere underneath cover, such as building eaves or other building structures, or beneath dense tree branch cover.

Robins and bluebirds both lay 4-5 blue eggs and begin incubating them when they have a full clutch. The females will sit on the eggs for roughly 14 days before the young hatch. Once they do, both parents will be very busy feeding the young for about two weeks. By the time the young fledge they will have received 6,000 – 9,000 insects (per clutch). Both species can have 2 – 3 clutches per season. Just think of how many insects they will have consumed by the end of the summer!

We owe them a big THANK YOU for that!

Bug o’the Week – Red-tailed Mining bee

Greetings, BugFans,

The BugLady visited Riveredge Nature Center recently looking for adventure, and she found it even before she hit the trails.  A dozen or so mining bees were flying around over a dirt bank near a bench – they were either nesting there or thinking about it (she came back a week later, and nesting was well-established).  Mining bees are solitary, ground-nesting bees in the family Andrenidae, a large family with about 3,000 species, almost half of which are in the genus Andrena (there are 450 Andrenas in North America).

Most of them are small (a half-inch-ish), fuzzy, black and tan/black bees with a striped abdomen (or not).  There are some gorgeous exceptions like this spectacularly orange Milwaukee mining bee, (Andrena milwaukeensis), a woodland bee that was discovered in 1903 by a Milwaukee entomologist https://bugguide.net/node/view/1690382/bgimage.  Andrena genus members have hair on their faces between the eyes and antennae (like a mini crew-cut), and they have long hairs on the upper sections of their back legs where they stash pollen (pollen-carrying equipment is called scopa/scopae, from the Latin for “broom”).  Pollen also sticks to hairs on the rest of their body.

Mining bees are important native pollinators.  Like bumble bees, they are “buzz pollinators – the vibration caused by their buzzing loosens pollen from a flower, and the difference in electrostatic charges between the bee and the pollen causes the pollen to stick to them.  Many species specialize on particular groups of flowers.  They are present throughout the growing season, but they’re famous for being among the earliest pollinators out of the box (they often emerge before the flowers do and bask on sunny surfaces until they warm up enough to fly).  Azalea, waterleaf, dogwood, violet, hawthorn, spring beauty, cranesbill, trout-lily, cherry, and golden alexanders mining bees kick off the wildflower season; and evening primrose, aster, sunflower, coneflower, and blazing star mining bees finish it off.  There are also vernal pool, miserable, frigid, unpolished, mournful, lonely, neighborly, well-armed, and nude mining bees.

[Nota Bene – BugFan Andrea recently asked the BugLady a question about Cellophane bees, aka Plasterer bees (family Colletidae) https://bugguide.net/node/view/1605422/bgimage, small bees that were not on the BugLady’s radar.  They’ve got an interesting story and she needs to figure out the secret handshake for distinguishing the slightly-smaller mining bees from the almost-honeybee-sized cellophane bees so she can tell it.  Bugguide.net calls them “Virtually indistinguishable from some of the Andrenidae mining bees.”]

Female mining bees excavate tunnels in soil and sand that they waterproof and make into nursery cells, each provisioned with a ball of pollen and nectar for their offspring.  For mining bee basics, see https://uwm.edu/field-station/mining-bee-rerun/.  They’re not social, like honey bees, but they tolerate other bees tunneling nearby.

Turns out that there were more than one species of mining bee at Riveredge that day – a spectacular little bee with a red abdomen, and some generic-looking mining bees to be named later (or maybe never, as bugguide.net says, “Identification to species level usually requires an expert.”).  They didn’t like each other much, and at first the BugLady thought that the red interloper might be a cuckoo/blood bee.

A few years ago, she photographed a small bee with a red abdomen, a sweat bee (family Halictidae) in the genus Sphecodes, the “blood bees” or cuckoo bees (https://uwm.edu/field-station/sphecodes-sweat-bee/).  Blood bees (named for their color) are kleptoparasites that wait until another female sweat bee prepares a chamber for her eggs, and then move in and insert their own egg.  Sometimes there’s a dust-up between the blood bee and the tunnel’s rightful owner.  This recent Riveredge bee looks similar to a Sphecodes bee https://bugguide.net/node/view/973711, but because the blood bee doesn’t collect food for her larvae, she doesn’t have/need scopae.  The Riveredge bee was pretty hairy, stem to stern, and the BugLady thinks it’s a “Red-tailed Andrena” (Andrena erythrogaster).

RTAs are (new vocabulary word) “oligolectic” – they are an oligolege of willows – which means that they specialize in willows, and the pollen balls formed by female RTAs are made of willow pollen.  Makes sense, because willows bloom early and prolifically (see this episode from March of 2012, that freakishly early, warm spring https://uwm.edu/field-station/pussy-willow-pollinators/).  Males RTAs patrol plants, keep an eye on the nesting sites, and mix it up with other bees; they likely encounter females on willows and mate there.  RTAs dig their tunnels in bare-ish sites that have some vegetation/debris on top to hide the nest holes and shelter them from rain, and they can be found in mixed-species groups.

The BugLady, who is accustomed to finding scant information about the insects she researches, was delighted to come across a paper published in the Illinois Natural History Survey Biological Notes in 1988 called “Observations on the Bionomics of the Bee Andrena {TyIandrena) erythrogaster Ashmead (Hymenoptera: Andrenidae)” by Eugene R. Miliczky.  For those of us who don’t exactly hit the ground running in the morning, the BugLady offers Miliczky’s description of emerging RTAs:

“’Prior to leaving on foraging trips, bees spent variable lengths of time sitting in their nest entrances.  Especially long periods were spent there before the first departure of the day and on days with poor weather. Usually a bee sat just below ground level, facing outward with her antennae directed forward at a slight, diverging angle. Over the next several minutes or up to an hour’ or more, the bee gradually emerged from the nest a step or two at a time. Often she moved her head from side to side prior to a short advance. Not infrequently a bee retreated down her burrow for a few seconds to a minute or more.     Very small (2—3 mm) beetles and ants passing the entrance were at times sufficient to induce a hasty retreat. At other times, the bee backed slowly and methodically down the burrow for no apparent reason. Eventually, however, the bee emerged completely.

Sometimes a female returns from her foraging trips with pollen and sometimes with nectar, and she probably provisions only one egg chamber each day.  Eggs hatch in eight to ten days, and when an RTA larva emerges into its sealed chamber atop its bed of pollen, it simply inclines its head downward into the center of the cache and starts to feed.

So in the end, the BugLady found out the part of the “Who?” “What?” and “Why” of her mining bee encounter, but the rest will have to wait for another day.

Here are some pictures of Red-tailed Andrenas and of unidentified mining bees enjoying the earthen bank and the willows and a spring day.

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:
http://uwm.edu/field-station/category/bug-of-the-week/

Riveredge No Dogs or Pets Policy Explained

So many new people have been visiting Riveredge Nature Center lately, and that’s wonderful! Unfortunately, we may not have always done the best job of explaining our no dogs or pets policy at Riveredge.

In this video, the Riveredge Research & Conservation Manager explains why Riveredge is such a special habitat for native and migratory wildlife, animals that don’t have another home or backyard to return to, and why we therefore do not allow dogs or other pets on the property, as domesticated animals can be disruptive to these sensitive habitats.

Please join us in embracing Riveredge as a sanctuary for these unique and often uncommon plants and animals, and help us spread the word that Riveredge is a sanctuary for wildlife; not domesticated pets.

If you’d like to explore outdoors with dogs, you’re in luck as dozens of locations exist in the immediate area where one can bring dogs outdoors. Parks in Ozaukee County, Washington County, Wisconsin, and Sheboygan, Wisconsin welcome leashed dogs. Please see this list for locations to bring dogs outdoors:

Ozaukee County

Covered Bridge Park, Ehlers Park, Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve, Hawthorne Hills Park, Mee-Kwon Park, River Oaks Park, Tendick Nature Park, Virmond Park, Waubedonia Park, Ozaukee Interurban Trail.

Washington County

Ackerman’s Grove County Park Family Park, Glacier Hills County Park, Goeden County Park, Heritage Trails County Park, Homestead Hollow County Park (includes off-leash exercise area), Leonard J. Yahr County Park, Lizard Mound County Park, Sandy Knoll County Park.

Sheboygan County

Broughton Sheboygan Marsh Park & Campground, Taylor Park, Esslingen Park, Roy Sebald Sheboygan River Natural Area, Gerber Lake Wildlife Area, Amsterdam Dunes Preservation Area

Hepatica

What’s Blooming at Riveredge? An Updated Phenology Report

One of the fantastic Riveredge volunteers, who has been exploring Riveredge trails for years to both take photographs and record observations, is letting us know what she sees blooming at Riveredge. In scientific terms, this is called “Phenology.” What is phenology? It’s very similar to another word, phenomenon. Phenology means what happens, and when, in nature. Some of the most common examples are: when flowers are blooming, when buds are present, when specific migratory bird species return, when birds are nesting.

Chances are, you already notice phenology you just might not call it that. If you notice when your garden is blooming, when the trees are budding, or when butterflies return to the skies – you’re observing phenology! Read below to learn what you can find along the trails when you visit Riveredge Nature Center right now.

Flowers Blooming

False Rue Anemone

False Rue Anemone is an early spring bloom.

Pasque Flower
Bloodroot
Hepatica
Spring Beauty
False Rue Anemone
Cut Leaved Toothwort
Dutchman’s Breeches
Marsh Marigold

Flower Buds Present

Prairie Smoke

White Trout Lilly
Prairie Smoke

Golden Alexander at Riveredge Nature Center

Golden Alexander (not yet this far long).

Sprouting/Leaves Present

Rattlesnake Master
Golden Alexander